by Matt Sefcovic (@MattSefcovic)
Jekyll and Hyde. Not the description you want for your team, but it’s true for the Clemson baseball team (23-21,15-15 ACC). In April, the Tigers suffered a seven game losing streak, followed by seven consecutive wins, sweeping both Wake Forest and Louisville and then defeating South Carolina Upstate. They followed that up by suffering a sweep in Atlanta at the hands of Georgia Tech before winning a midweek game against South Carolina.
Coach Monte Lee is looking for more consistency out of his club in order to hear their name called on Selection Monday in a few weeks. As of now, College Baseball Nation has Clemson in the NCAA Tournament as one of the “Last 4 In,” but Tigers fans would feel more comfortable with a series win this weekend in Tallahassee.
Over the last four series, the Tigers have used the same starting rotation with Mack Anglin, Keyshawn Askew, and Mat Clark, but this trio has combined for a 4-5 record on the season. Anglin has been the most consistent starter with a 3.24 ERA, striking out 56 batters in 41.2 innings of work, but Askew and Clark are both allowing opponents batting averages near .270 and have ERA’s above 4.00
Fortunately for the Tigers, the bullpen is very deep and will be used early and often. Five different pitchers have greater than 16 appearances, led by Geoffrey Gilbert with 25. Gilbert boasts a 1.66 ERA with three saves and a 47/12 strikeout to walk ratio. Look for his name to be called multiple times this weekend.
At the plate, Clemson will have their hands full against a very stout Seminoles pitching staff. The Tigers are 186th in the nation, batting .259 as a team. Caden Grice leads the offensive attack, batting .321 with 12 home runs and 44 RBI, with four of the home runs and 12 RBI coming in the series sweep against Louisville. James Parker and Kier Meredith are the only other qualified batters above .300.
Florida State (26-18, 17-13 ACC) on the other hand, is attempting to make a case for one of the final regional hosts, but as of now, they are projected as the two seed in the Gainesville regional. The Seminoles fell to the Gators 3-2 earlier this season in ten innings.
Last weekend, Mike Martin Jr. took his team to South Bend, winning the series against a Notre Dame team that had not lost a series all season long. With a strong finish to the regular season and a few wins in the ACC Tournament, it would not be a surprise if the Seminoles were to host a regional in the NCAA Tournament.
Matheu Nelson is putting up ACC Player of the Year type numbers, leading the nation with 20 home runs and is second in the country with 58 RBI. Nelson is the only Seminole batting over .325 on a team with a .241 average, which is good for 250th in the country.
Elijah Cabell is another name to keep an eye on in this lineup as his production continues to increase as the season progresses. Cabell has five home runs in the last ten games, improving his average from .221 to .291 during that span.
How does a team batting 250th in the nation contend to host a regional? A dominant pitching staff. The Seminoles have a 3.23 ERA, which is the 8th best in the country and they rank third in the nation with just over 11.5 strikeouts per nine innings.
Parker Messick has been the leader of the staff with a 6-2 record and 2.37 ERA in 12 starts, while freshman Bryce Hubbart is 5-4 with a 3.46 ERA. Conor Grady has been very consistent this season as the Sunday starter with a 5-2 record and 3.56 ERA. These three have combined for 253 strikeouts and just 57 walks.
Matt’s Prediction: If you are a fan of high octane offenses, this may not be a series for you. Both teams have a lot on the line this weekend as Clemson is trying to prove they belong while Florida State is attempting to make one last push for a top 16 seed. It should be a low-scoring affair. Neither team will have much room for error, but I think the Seminoles pitching staff will prove to be too much for the Tigers offense in Tallahassee. Give me Mike Martin Jr. and Co. this weekend to take the series.